If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect. ~Steven Johnson
I am excited to further my learning by participating in the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course with George Couros and have chosen to respond to the following prompt:
Why is innovation in education so crucial today?
When I was a child- back in the ’70s and ’80s, I can remember the excitement of getting the yearly supplement to the World Book Encyclopedia. It was green and off-white leather and it had the year on the spine. I sat them proudly on my bookshelf next to the red and navy encyclopedias that went from A-Z. I literally had the world in my hands- or at least on the bookshelf in my bedroom- and I could learn anything I wanted, when I wanted by just opening the right volume.
Flash forward to the college years when I was first introduced to ERIC microfiche (and by the way, pulling that word out of my head is so mind-boggling since if you asked me tomorrow what I did over the weekend I would probably not remember) and I thought my head would explode from all the available material at my disposal anytime I stepped foot in Olin library.
Today, we don’t have to wait for the yearly installments to arrive, nor do we have to step foot in a library (don’t get me wrong, I love libraries because I love books) if we have an internet connection and a smart phone, tablet, or other mobile device; the information is literally at our fingertips (or thumbs depending on how you type!) whenever we want to learn.
And yet, in many schools, students are waiting- waiting for the bell to tell them when to go to and leave from class; waiting for the teacher to tell them it’s ok to take out their devices; waiting to get the assignment; and waiting to be called on to answer a question.
In some schools, even those where students are given laptops and often have other devices in their hands, those devices are not necessarily being used to their potential- to connect students with others, to share learning, discuss topics, to create for authentic audiences and real feedback, to learn more.
And this is why innovation in education is so crucial today. It is because students and teachers have these capabilities in their laps that what happens in schools needs to be more innovative. Educational systems may have enough physical space for each student to learn, but may be lacking in space for innovation. Teachers and students in schools today need space and time to think differently, think creatively, think innovative-ly. They need time and space to collaborate and the freedom to do so. They need to be applauded for taking risks, lifted up when they fail, and encouraged to reflect on what went wrong, what went right, and how both additional efforts and reflection time can help them improve.
Innovation is not necessarily a lab or makerspace in the building. While those physical spaces can lead to innovations, finding passions, and creative expression, it is not the actual space but what happens in it and around it. What are the mindsets of those spaces. Do they allow for and encourage freedom of expression, student choice, risk-taking, collaborating, reflecting? Do they encourage students and teachers to look at things and think about how they can use or do things differently? Do they inspire a love of learning and give them space to be curious and then follow that curiosity wherever it may lead?
As Couros says in his Introduction,
We need to change what schools look like for our students so we can create new, relevant opportunities for them– for their future and for today.
We are at a time of constant change, upgrading, making things happen in the world outside of school, we need to make things happen inside the world of schools, and the time for this to happen is now.